Cover image for Forgiving & not forgiving : a new approach to resolving intimate betrayal
Forgiving & not forgiving : a new approach to resolving intimate betrayal
Safer, Jeanne.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Avon Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 210 pages ; 22 cm
Subject Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF637.F67 S34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Forgiveness has long been a cornerstone of the Judeo-Christian tradition, an ideal embraced by religious leaders, psychotherapists, talk show hosts, & others, many of whom tend to assume that if you don't forgive, you're doomed to be a victim for the rest of your life. This assumption demonstrates how deeply ingrained forgiveness is as an ideal & as an imperative in our culture & Not Forgiving Now, Dr. Jeanne Safer, a practicing psychotherapist for more than twenty years, comes forward to challenge popularly held beliefs about forgiveness, exploring such questions as: Is forgiving always appropriate or are some things unforgivable? Can we have closure & healing without forgiving? Is the act of forgiving always an honest one? Beginning with her own gripping story of betrayal, & drawing on over fifty intimate in-depth interviews with others, including a murderer, a princess, & a next-door neighbor, Dr. Safer offers a fresh & consoling challenge to conventional wisdom that forgiveness is the only route to resolution. When it comes to intimate betrayal, forgiveness is not always necessary or possible. However, coming to terms with the betrayal is, & that is what Dr. Safer addresses in this book. When should we try to forgive, & when should we refuse to do so? Can forgiving be willed? Do attitudes about forgiving change through the life cycles? Is it true that "to understand all is to forgive all"? And are all acts of forgiveness genuine? Dr. Safer points out that false forgiveness, the product of rationalization, lip service, & denial, does not lead to inner change. Often it is merely a superficial & suspect public display that estranges people from their deepest feelings & short-circuits genuine forgiving. Real changes of heart & mind are arduous, subtle, precious, & rare. Partial success, lingering doubts, residual bitterness, & grief are typical-but deciding

Author Notes

Jeanne Safer, Ph.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for twenty-five years.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a stimulating book that seeks to challenge the common wisdom, psychotherapist Safer (Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children) examines our Judeo-Christian concept of forgiveness. Though positioned for general readers, the tone and style of this book are more thoughtful than prescriptive; it will most likely find its market among mental health professionals and others with the background to absorb Safer's sophisticated arguments. The "intimate betrayals" involve hurtful behavior by family, lovers and friends, and exclude actions by strangers. Though marital infidelity is included, the majority of examples are of breaches between parents and children, some of which are quite disturbing. Forgiveness, Safer says, is not a "natural" reaction to damaging behaviors, though it's a cornerstone of our society. Drawing on her 25-year practice, she describes traumatic acts of family brutality, incest, alcoholism and compulsive gambling. She analyzes how the individuals involved have resolved their betrayals, evaluating each approach in relation to religious thought, as explained by a Jewish Reform rabbi and a Catholic priest. In essence, Safer is suggesting that a reasoned process for coming to terms with wrongdoing is more appropriate than the kind of blanket forgiveness that's prevalent today. The end result may not be forgiveness, but the value, she says, is in thorough examination and increased self-knowledge. The required steps in the process are "re-engaging" (with the betrayer, the act, the ensuing emotions and reactions) and "recognizing" the significance of the ordeal, which allow "reinterpretation" of the motives of both parties. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of the Virginia Barber Literary Agency. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Safer, a therapist with more than 25 years of experience, claims that sometimes the only way to achieve inner peace is by going against the prevalent Judeo-Christian belief that forgiving your enemies is unequivocally the right thing to do. She distinguishes between true and false forgiveness and, rather than accepting that dichotomy, creates a new category she calls thoughtful unforgiveness. She points out that if you lie to yourself about having forgiven someone when you really haven't, you're going to cause yourself far more psychic pain than if you acknowledge that you are not yet ready to forgive. While this is not a particularly amazing bit of news, libraries that have collected some of the recent titles lauding forgiveness as a panacea may wish to add this book as an alternative viewpoint.√ĄPamela A. Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Forgiving My Fatherp. 9
The Little Assistantp. 9
The Nightingalep. 31
Chapter 2 What Is Forgiveness?p. 43
Chapter 3 How We Forgive I: Methods, Motives and Meaningsp. 55
Chapter 4 How We Forgive II: Forgiveness Through the Life Cyclep. 77
Chapter 5 How We Forgive III: The Unrepentant and the Deadp. 89
Chapter 6 Reconciliationp. 103
Chapter 7 Forgiving Yourselfp. 117
Chapter 8 False Forgiveness: The Flight from Rage and Griefp. 131
Chapter 9 The Unforgivable I: The Outraged and the Disengagedp. 143
Moral Unforgiversp. 145
Psychologically Detached Unforgiversp. 154
Chapter 10 The Unforgivable II: Conflict and Vengencep. 167
Ambivalent Unforgiversp. 168
Religious Unforgiversp. 171
Reformed Forgiversp. 175
The Vengefulp. 177
Chapter 11 The Eye of the Beholderp. 185
The Charming Professorp. 186
Lady Luckp. 196
Chapter 12 The Good Enough Lifep. 203